A study was carried out to process a sulfide mineral concentrate from Norwest of Mexico containing 97 g/t Au, 0.15% Cu, and 15% Fe. An oxidative acid pretreatment was investigated using ferric sulfate as oxidant, followed by leaching of gold with sodium cyanide. Scanning electron microscopy, SEM-EDS, and X-ray diffraction, XRD, the analysis confirms the presence of quartz and pyrite species. First, a leaching was carried out without pretreatment, at ambient conditions, T = 25 °C and P = 1 atm, obtaining only a 45.2% gold extraction. Once the presence of Fe and Cu sulfides had been confirmed, the Eh-pH diagrams were constructed for the Fe-S-H2O and Cu-S-H2O systems, where it is appreciated that pyrite and chalcocite can dissolve with high oxidation potentials and forming sulfur, oxidizing to sulfate at highly acidic conditions. The oxidized concentrate was neutralized and adjusted to pH > 10.5; it was leached at ambient conditions, at different particle sizes, 44, 37, and 26.5μm, achieving an Au extraction of 75% using a concentration of 0.5% NaCN, 26.5μm particle size, 20% solids, and P = 1atm. Then the oxidized material was subjected to different temperatures, 25, 50, and 70 °C, under the same conditions and obtaining Au extractions up to 92% at 70°C. Additionally, the leaching process was compared using an autoclave reactor at moderate pressures, obtaining an increase in the extraction of Au up to 98% in 2 h, at T = 70 °C and P = 0.62 MPa.
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- Chemical oxidation
- Sulfide refractory ore